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The Highway to Climate Hell Remains Wide Open

Photo credit: Matt Palmer

2023 was the hottest year on record. This year, we had six record-breaking months and two record-breaking seasons. It’s only about to get worse, and world leaders fail yet again to take action.

Reaching new lows

The ERA5 data shows that the global surface air temperature on November 17 and 18 reached 2.07°C above the pre-industrial average. This year marks the first time we exceeded the infamous threshold of 2°C above the pre-industrial levels and are currently moving away full-speed from the 1,5°C as set eight years ago in the Paris Agreement.

“Tipping points in the Earth system pose threats of a magnitude never faced by humanity,” to the Guardian said Tim Lenton, from the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute. “They can trigger devastating domino effects, including the loss of whole ecosystems and capacity to grow staple crops, with societal impacts including mass displacement, political instability and financial collapse.”

Not-so-positive news also comes from the Emissions Gap Report 2023. The report finds some progress since 2015, however, it is nearly not enough. Predicted 2030 greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 28 percent for the Paris Agreement 2°C pathway and 42 percent for the 1.5°C pathway till 2030. Today, the report shows an increase in greenhouse gas emissions by 3 percent (compared to the previous 16 percent).

The report urges all nations to “accelerate economy-wide, low-carbon development transformations”, especially calling countries with great responsibility for emissions to take bold and ambitious action and pursue low-emissions development growth.

Photo credit: Tania Malréchauffé

Big false hopes for COP28

With a lot of negative facts about the state of climate being released in early autumn, big expectations were set on COP28 negotiations and hopes for bolder political action. 

However, the conference was a disappointment before it even started, when leaked notes revealed that the president of COP28 Sultan Al Jaber says Adnoc, was planning to use the event to make oil and gas deals. He also, later on publicly stated that there’s ‘no science’ behind demands for phase-out of fossil fuels and that his company has no plans to divest from fossil fuels. Not only not to divest but expand the investments by more than 150 billion US dollars. 

COP28 finally managed to name fossil fuels the main climate problem. The opposition of Saudi Arabia and the Opec oil cartel managed to throw down the “supermajority” of countries supporting the phase-out of fossil fuels (as absolute consensus is required under the UN procedure). With this, the ‘phase-out’ of fossil fuels was pushed away from the discussions. 

Photo credit: COP28/Christopher Pike

In the final formulation of the negotiations made in COP28, the countries were called to transition “away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”. Even though it shows some progress, it does not as nearly capture the urgency to avoid climate collapse. The broad and abstract text also gives a clear green light for those who want to delay or completely avoid action. 

As Prof Rupert Read told the Guardian, “The deal leaves the highway to climate hell wide open.”

The most affected people and areas were once again not properly included in the process and decision-making. The science is crystal clear - emissions need to be cut, loss and damage, adaptations and just transitions must be properly funded by those who contributed the most to the crisis. And yet, the outcome of this year's COP shows that the people in power still put profit over their people.

What now?

Without a doubt, it’s extremely frustrating to see this stagnation and unwillingness to take much-needed action, where existentially much is at stake. 

That’s why the fight has to continue. There’s no other option. 

Throughout history, activists have shown that people's power is capable of catalysing big change. And today we need change more than ever. We need it to win the battle for our existence. 

And, for those, who today are in a position of power, you need to step up for the change, otherwise, step aside and let those who are brave and bold enough do it.

Photo credit: Rebecca Zanini/ReGeneration 2030

ReGeneration 2030 is a democratic and youth-led organisation, mobilising youth climate movements from the Nordic and Baltic Sea region. Want to join us? Fill out a volunteer application form here.

Author: Ugnė Budriūnaitė

Editor: Alva Danielsson

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